With a topic like this, I absolutely first have to say that I believe in speed limits. I also support the hardworking, and often not appreciated, public safety officers who help deal with accidents and problems that deserve their attention. With that said, the nature of a speed limit has become accepted in society as a guideline, a general indicator of the speed at which people should travel. Of course, unless you have been a recluse at home for the past few years, drivers on major interstate highways almost never drive slower than the posted speed limits.
Most states have established laws that define “speeding” as a driver and the car exceeding the posted speed limit by 10mph. Thus, if the posted sign says 65mph, then most of the time you won’t get pulled over for a speeding ticket when doing 74mph. Bad weather and driving congestion naturally alter the average speed downward.
When I see these speed traps, I get mad-but not for the reason you might think. I’m not upset that police officers are trying to catch speeders. Rather, I’m upset because these paid guardians of our public safety are wasting so much of their valuable time sitting on the side of the road just to give out a few tickets to those who are driving too fast.
I believe there’s a much better solution, and there’s already indication that systems are coming into place that may eliminate the need for any highway patrol officer to ever worry about simple vehicle speed enforcement again.
A better solution
Here’s the way I believe this new solution should work in the long term. All cars will have multiple transmitting radios-from Wi??ÃFi to third-generation or fourth-generation cellular to mesh networking-so that cars can network with each other and be connected to the highway patrol. Most cars have a toll sensor in the window as well that isn’t active but does allow the car to be recognized when it passes a toll booth or toll lane. There are two basic driver issues that need to be addressed: 1) those that speed and 2) those who drive recklessly.
Regarding driving recklessly (or appearing to do that via something wrong with the car) should be dealt with via intervention. First, the local wireless mesh should result in vehicles self-programmed to get out of the way. Second, the local police and highway patrol should have the right to intervene and stop the car. We have all seen situations where two cars are racing each other or someone is directing road rage at someone else, trying to get ahead by cutting them off, using their car as a weapon. These situations can easily be detected. Once that happens, the local police or highway patrol should take over control of the car and pull them safely over to the side of the road.
For those that want to go faster than the posted speed limit (for example, they want to drive 80mph in a 65mph zone), we should change the entire process of scolding violators to automatically generating revenue for the privilege of driving faster and getting to your destination more quickly. Once cars are outfitted with wireless communications, public safety can communicate with each car, and the cars and trucks can then also communicate with each other via mesh networking.
Here’s my core recommendation: each state sets up a “speed tax” that is posted (and available on the displays in wireless-enabled vehicles). Then, cars that speed are simply charged a fee based on how fast they are going. Want to get to grandma’s faster? OK, drive 75mph instead of 65mph but you will have to pay a toll (which might be called euphemistically a “speed tax”) for doing that. The speed tax schedule could look something like this:
-Less than 40mph: $1.00 per mile (yes, charge people for going too slow)
-40 to 65mph: $0
-65 to 69mph: 10 cents per mile in town, 5 cents out of town
-70 to 74mph: 20 cents per mile in town, 10 cents out of town
-75 to 79mph: 50 cents per mile in town, 15 cents out of town
-80 to 84mph: $1.00 per mile in town, 20 cents out of town
-85 to 90mph: $2.00 per mile in town, 25 cents out of town
-Greater than 90mph: vehicle is slowed down by the highway patrol or permission must be granted by the public safety officials (for example, an emergency).
Thus, if you need to drive 200 miles to grandma’s house but wanted to drive at 80mph, you would get charged 200 miles at 20 cents per mile or $40.00 for the privilege to do so.
Florida’s Turnpike System
You can see part of these systems already in place in Florida where, coming out of Miami, you can get access to the SunPass extra lanes that are not as crowded. Florida’s Turnpike system adjusts the charge to use the extra lanes based on the time of day. Thus, during rush hour, the charge is typically $2.75 and off-peak it’s 35 cents.
While they don’t charge for the speed at which you are driving yet, there’s no reason they couldn’t add that capability in the future. And, its developments such as this that lead to lanes that can charge for access and then charge you for the speed you drive in the special lanes.
And, perhaps 50 years from now, all cars will have wireless. We’ll be able to eliminate speed traps, and highway patrol officers can utilize more of their available time to truly helping with public safety. Wireless technology will be used to charge for the right to drive faster. Speeding tickets will morph into a speed tax, while having the ability to prevent unsafe conditions that cause a multitude of accidents.
J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D. is Principal Analyst of Mobile & Wireless at MobileTrax LLC. As a nationally recognized industry authority, Dr. Purdy focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America. Dr. Purdy is an “edge of network” analyst looking at devices, applications and services, as well as wireless connectivity to those devices. Dr. Purdy provides critical insights regarding mobile and wireless devices, wireless data communications and connection to the infrastructure that powers the data in the wireless handheld. He is author of the column Inside Mobile & Wireless that provides industry insights and is read by over 100,000 people a month.
Dr. Purdy continues to be affiliated with the venture capital industry as well. He currently is Managing Director at Yosemite Ventures. And he spent five years as a Venture Advisor for Diamondhead Ventures in Menlo Park where he identified, attracted and recommended investments in emerging companies in mobile and wireless. He has had a prior affiliation with East Peak Advisors and, subsequently, following their acquisition, with FBR Capital Markets. For more than 16 years, Dr. Purdy has been consulting, speaking, researching, networking, writing and developing state-of-the-art concepts that challenge people’s mind-sets, as well as developing new ways of thinking and forecasting in the mobile computing and wireless data arenas. Often quoted, Dr. Purdy’s ideas and opinions are followed closely by thought leaders in the mobile and wireless industry. He is author of three books as well.
Dr. Purdy currently is a member of the Program Advisory Board of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) which produces CES, one of the largest trade shows in the world. He is a frequent moderator at CTIA conferences and GSM Mobile World Congress. He also is a member of the Board of the Atlanta Wireless Technology Forum. Dr. Purdy has a B.S. degree in Engineering Physics from University of Tennessee, a M.S. degree in Computer Science from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Exercise Physiology from Stanford University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column. If that situation happens, then I’ll disclose it at that time.